Fire Extinguishers and April Fools: April 1, 2010

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When I arrived tonight, Bruce, who was in town again, shook my hand and told me he had been reading my blog and the proof was over on the table by the house. I looked and saw several bottles of Scotch and, assuming he had brought one, I said “Oh, that’s awesome,” and he said “No, behind the Scotch,” and I went and looked and there was a shiny brand new fire extinguisher. If you read last week’s post, you will understand. If not, I suggest you click here to read it now,  as well as the comments about it, so you can be in on the joke.

As another adjunct to last week’s post, I learned that Jerry threatened to throw Greg out of the house if he did not divulge the identity of the person who mixed Scotch with diet 7-Up. So Greg obliged. But this person shall remain nameless here.

Thirteen gathered on this windy, warm, April Fools evening. For the curious, the origins of April Fools Day seem to be unknown, lost, it seems,  in the mists of time. There are many theories, but one of the more plausible ones is based on the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. The Julian new year began on March 25 and was celebrated in a week-long holiday that ended on April 1. With the advent of the Gregorian calendar, January 1 became the new beginning of the year and those who continued to celebrate on April 1 were called April Fools. And of course, it is now the one legitimate day in the calendar set aside for practical jokes. Even Google joined the tomfoolery this year, changing their name to “Topeka” for a day.

After saying our mantra, Jerry brought out an old volume of Robert Browning’s poems and read the song from Pippa Passes in honor of this wild spring evening whose wind fanned the ardor of the fire, making it flare out in sheets of gleeful flame and sent its sparks like fireflies into the sky.

The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his Heaven –
All’s right with the world!

We talked about a recent article written by Sandy Rios,  a talk show host on WYLL in Chicago. In the article she lamented what she called Wheaton College’s “move to the left,” and cited the statistics that 60% of Wheaton’s faculty voted for Barack Obama. She theorizes that this move to the left is the result of a focus on social justice issues, which, in its truest form is good, but at Wheaton, has been twisted and co-opted by the left’s cunning ability to change meanings. She looks at a few authors in the education department with Marxist, social justice leanings and projects this onto the rest of the college, its faculty, and its students. You can read the full article here, which isn’t long. When you read it, you’ll find that it’s full of assumptions that don’t logically follow from what is stated. Interestingly, Jerry knows Sandy Rios (who doesn’t Jerry know?!) and had the following comments:

“I know Sandy really well. The article was unfortunate and outright wrong. She’s very conservative, sometimes thoughtfully so, sometimes not. She assumed that because 60 % of the professors at Wheaton voted liberal, they couldn’t be pro-life. I don’t know a single person at Wheaton College who is not pro-life. So she’s projecting on that. She assumes that if they have this view then they must therefore be this. I think she’s wrong. And it was sad. And she engages in some degree of ad hominem (attacking the person rather than the issue). She’s trying to say that the dirty words are Bill Ayers and Obama. Rather than discussing substantively, she’s projecting through them onto the professors. It kind of upset me. She was way out of line.”

From leftist sentiments and Obama we landed on the topic of abortion. I often get fidgety when this topic is raised because for all the conversation and energy that has been poured into this issue, we don’t seem to have made much progress on legislation to stop it. Perhaps I’m wrong. I know certain groups are making progress on a smaller level. Perhaps I lament a morality that doesn’t recognize or value human life or that the forces of good have not been strong enough to carry the day. Jerry had some solid, logical arguments against abortion, as you’ll see.

Justice spoke about the emotional damage that occurs to women who have aborted babies in the past. And Jerry told stories of women who knew their children were going to die when they were born but who carried the children to term anyway, despite doctors’ advice to abort them. And in one case, a woman who was advised to abort her baby because it was going to die when it was born, carried the child to term, and ended up delivering a perfectly healthy baby, proving the doctors wrong.

Jerry thinks the issue is definitional. You have to ask: Is this a human being or not? If you decide it’s a human being, the issue is over. Everything else, all the touching stories, are anecdotal. However, you don’t solve the problem by the stories, but over the question “Is this a life?”

During his tenure at College of DuPage, where he taught philosophy, C.S. Lewis, and ethics classes, Jerry described how students in his ethics classes would debate issues. One of these issues was abortion. The class was divided into three groups: pro-life, pro-choice, and doctor’s dilemma (what is to be done if an aborted child comes out alive). During the debate one of the pro-choice people said “You don’t have a problem eating an egg or crushing an acorn, so what’s the difference with aborting a fetus?” So Jerry said, “Let’s look at the adult phase of each. Do you have a problem eating a chicken? No. Do you have a problem chopping down a tree? No. Do you have a problem killing an adult? If it doesn’t work at the adult level and you project back, what about the fetal stage of this thing that is going to develop? By definition, this is a human being.” The doctor’s dilemma group said the doctor should look at the child and make a decision about whether or not the child can live a substantive life. “But then you are playing God,” challenged the pro-choice group. “Then in every case, the child that comes out alive should be put to death,” said the doctor’s dilemma group. “As soon as that person made that statement,” said Jerry, “everyone gasped. If abortion is legitimate, in every case you put to death the child that comes out alive. They gasped because they saw. By definition, it doesn’t work. You have to stick with definition.”

I don’t really have any smooth transition from abortion to tobacco.  I like non sequiturs anyway. And I like tobacco. When you want some fun, try having a conversation that is composed entirely of non sequiturs with someone. It’s quite amusing.

I tried some Dark Birdseye tobacco from Gawith, Hoggarth & Co., which Carl gave me. Looking at their website, I found Dark Birdseye described as “A strong smoke which was particularly favored by the fishermen, as the finer cut meant the tobacco was easier to light and to keep in on board ship.” Interesting.

Maybe I should ask Carl to contribute his pipe or tobacco tip of the week so I can include it here. After all, he is an expert, and if not for him, all our knowledge of pipe smoking would have remained in the mud, as Jerry says. And I have to give credit to Jerry. He’s been trying many new kinds of tobacco, though I think he secretly prefers his enormous bag of Walgreens black cavendish. Well, as Carl says, “Smoke what you like and like what you smoke.” By the way, if any of you are interested in pipe or tobacco sites, Carl has given me these two:

So there you have it. Until next time, peace like a river.

Recent Entries:

Of Cows, C.S. Lewis and B.B. Guns: March 25, 2010

The Economics of Good and Evil: Part 1 March 11, 2010

The Economics of Good and Evil: Part 2 March 18, 2010

Continue the discussion. Ask questions. Give your version of what happened. Leave a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.

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~ by Mark Neal on April 5, 2010.

3 Responses to “Fire Extinguishers and April Fools: April 1, 2010”

  1. Mark,
    I like to follow your blog, even when it doesn’t follow.


  2. Thanks, Matt. I am a devout follower of your puns!

  3. I’m just now getting to read this article since my dad was in the hospital getting open heart surgery the night of this event.

    The abortion arguments are interesting and quite cogent. The hard part comes in the real life situations. Yes, the child is a human. Yes we should do all in our strength to save him or her. But the difficult part comes when the child is born ill, physiclaly or mentally. Or born by rape or something else unfortunate. it may bring a life time of pain if there weren’t abortions. But, I also am an ardent pro-lifer so I disbelieve in abortion but at the same time I realize why some people believe in it. It’s a tough situation. However, I do believe that pro-life stances can beat pro-choice arguments any day of the week in the realm of theory.

    Anyway, thanks for the article, I enjoyed reading it!

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